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  • Meet the farmers and scientists collaborating to restore Kenya’s degraded grasslands

Meet the farmers and scientists collaborating to restore Kenya’s degraded grasslands

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Hellen Atieno Owuor remembers a time when farming goats and cattle in the sub-humid eastern highlands of Kenya was a relatively straightforward task.

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  • FTA celebrates 10 years of achievements and sets ambitions for the future

FTA celebrates 10 years of achievements and sets ambitions for the future

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The “final” FTA event on Dec. 9 culminated 10 impactful years of research for development; it brought together 338 attendees from over 50 countries to hear about the partnership’s top accomplishments and lessons learned. These successes light the collective path forward into a new decade of continued research and impact.

“This is a springboard,” said Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) Director General, and Director of the first phase of FTA, Robert Nasi. “…We don’t want to stop here, as there is much more work to do in light of the recent COP26, the CBD and the news you see every day. We have a good team; we have a good set of partners. I see no reason why we should stop here.”

To begin the event, lead scientists from FTA’s Flagship programs and managing-partner organizations presented chapters from the FTA Highlights series, which showcases a decade of results, findings and achievements. More than 200 scientists were involved as authors in the highlights series’ 18 volumes. The event was organized around four sections which represent a partition of the highlights volumes.

The full event can be replayed in EN (ES and FR to follow). Download the agenda of the event.


Session #1: Forests, Trees and Agroforestry for Biodiversity and Food Systems

The first session was moderated by Linda Collette, member of the Independent Steering Committee of FTA, and showcased volumes two through six of the highlights series. Each of these chapters emphasize research and impactful projects related to tree genetic resources, biodiversity, landscape restoration, food systems and wildlife.

Leading the way, Ramni Jamnadass, FTA’s Flagship 1 Leader and senior scientist at ICRAF, presented on seeds and seedlings (Vol.2). She highlighted the need for diverse, high-quality seeds to sprout successful landscape restoration initiatives that are good for business and for ecosystems. “We have seen soaring tree-planting pledges over the past few years,” she said, “so this is an opportune time to bring up the seeds and to ask where they are coming from. …remember: garbage in, garbage out. Quality in, quality out.”

Read volume 2

Senior researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Barbara Vinceti, similarly reflected the need for diversity in her presentation on conservation of tree biodiversity and forest management (Vol. 3). In light of the ongoing environmental challenges facing the planet, “genetic diversity is a dimension still overlooked, so we need to include it explicitly in forest conservation and management,” she said.

Read volume 3

However, restoring ecosystem services is a difficult topic from a development perspective because it is multi-dimensional and multi-scalar, according to senior CIFOR scientist, Manuel Guariguata. Presenting on forest and landscape restoration (Vol. 4), he summarized FTA’s contributions to research and policy governance. He also celebrated the partnership’s on-the-ground implementation of FLR initiatives, “The restoration agenda is the bread and butter of FTA partners, and we have contributed a lot in this regard” he said. “We also learned a lot. For instance, we learned it is critical to implement FLR through landscape approaches.”

Read volume 4

Next, senior CIFOR scientist Amy Ickowitz showcased tree and agroforestry contributions to food security and nutrition. Ten years of research across Africa, Asia and South America has increasingly proved the links between trees and micro-nutrient-rich diets. “A lot more still needs to be done to have these contributions [from food trees] both better understood and, more importantly, better integrated in national discourses and policy,” said Ickowitz.

Read volume 5

Wild meat is another important, albeit controversial, source of nutrition that comes from forests. World expert and CIFOR senior associate, Julia Fa, has worked with the Bushmeat Research Initiative (BRI) to study how wild meat consumption impacts the environment, contributes to food security and impacts human health through its association with zoonotic diseases. She and her team have worked in more than 40 countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Indonesia. “We’re very proud of what we’ve done in the last 10 years, and based on this, there is now an agenda to translate research to action, to link implementation and further learning and to ensure that wild meat is sustainably sourced and harvested,” said Fa.

Read volume 6

Session #2 – Forests, Trees and Agroforestry for Livelihoods

The second session was moderated by René Boot, member of the FTA ISC and Director of Tropenbos International; it centred on the highlights’ volumes seven through nine plus 15. These chapters reveal how FTA and its partners have worked to improve well-being and generate income through trees for people in developing areas.

For example, FTA Management Team member and CATIE senior scientist, Eduardo Somarriba, discussed how Trees on Farms (ToF), can generate income for farmers while also providing valuable ecosystem services. He especially focused on a case from Honduras where trees have been planted as “live fences” to facilitate rotational livestock grazing. “It is possible to increase innovation with trees on farms, but we need solid science to convince farmers, land-use planners and policymakers,” he said. “You need a lot of communication, facilitation and to show good financial performance.”

Read volume 7 (COMING SOON)

Sustainable timber harvesting for bioenergy is another way that trees can act as engines for sustainable development. INBAR representative, Li Yanxia, discussed how a wood-based circular bioeconomy could benefit local communities and global economies while reducing the ecological footprint of deforestation. “Efforts should not only invest in building natural capital,” she said. “Attention should also be directed towards building human capacity and understanding the social dimensions of the wood value chains through forest tenure systems, etc.”

Read volume 8 (COMING SOON)

Transitioning to a circular bioeconomy will require context-specific approaches that work at scale. In his presentation, CIFOR-ICRAF chief scientist and FTA Flagship 2 Leader Fergus Sinclair specifically promoted FTA’s work on Options by Context (OxC), a set of performance metrics that allow farmers and researchers to identify the best options for agricultural development and land restoration in their local areas. He also spotlighted the recent launch of the Agroecology Transformative Partnership Platform (TPP) that FTA incubated, and which brings together people from around the world to discuss sustainable food systems transitions. “There are multiple transition pathways depending on local contexts and partnerships; this is what allows us to scale up sustainably.”

Read volume 9 (COMING SOON)

None of this work is possible without financial support and increased investment in sustainable forest and tree-based commodities. Presenting the FTA Highlight Volume 10 on sustainable value chains, finance and investment in forestry & tree commodities, Michael Brady, FTA’s Flagship 3 Leader, outlined three core research areas for sustainable value chains: institutional arrangements, business models for smallholders and SMEs and responsible finance among financial service providers. He noted that research this decade has especially focused on sustainable certification systems for agro-commodities such as timber, rubber, shea, oil palm and cocoa. “This particular topic very much requires a systems approach looking at institutional, environmental and socioeconomic elements,” he said. “None of these can be really ignored when you consider value chains, finance and investment.”

Read volume 10

Cross-cutting all of FTA’s work on livelihoods is the need to advance gender equality and social inclusion. FTA’s Gender coordinator and senior researcher at The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, Marlène Elias outlined FTA’s Theory of Change, which places inclusion at the heart of the organization’s structure and encourages research done specifically with a gender and social inclusion lens. The goal is for women and other marginalized groups to share equal rights, access and tenure to forest and tree-based landscapes. “What we’ve shown in this work is not only that gender inequality can hinder efforts to achieve positive environmental outcomes but also how policies and interventions that focus on the environment can advance gender equality,” she said.

Read volume 15

Session #3 – Forests, Trees and Agroforestry for Climate change and the SDGs

The third session of the event focused on how FTA’s research aligns with the SDGs and contributes to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moderated by Florencia Montagnini, member of FTA’s ISC, the presenters spoke on volumes 11-14 of the highlights series.

Starting off, Christopher Martius, CIFOR senior scientist and Flagship 5 Leader, offered several examples from FTA’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+. This work has helped governments set target emissions levels and to implement monitoring systems to track progress. While celebrating the work that was achieved over the past 10 years, Martius reminded the audience that long-term changes take time: “Oftentimes projects have a lot of high expectations,” he said. “In a 10-year program such as this, you will start seeing results, but it takes a lot of time to effectuate these changes in really complex policy environments.”

Read volume 11 

It is well-known that forests and trees act as carbon sinks and ecosystem service providers. The mitigation agenda has often hidden a crucial adaptation agenda for forests and trees. FTA has worked to shift paradigms towards the key role of forests and trees for adaptation of various sectors.  FTA’s approach also looks at how social and ecological systems can work together and adapt to climate change, according to senior CIFOR scientist Alexandre Meybeck. “You need to have research embedded in implementation,” he said. “We need normal interactions between actors on the ground and scientists to support them in creating the new systems for the future.”

Read volume 12 (COMING SOON)

In order to facilitate mutually-beneficial relationships between humans and ecosystems, FTA promotes a multifunctional landscapes approach that uses careful resource planning and implementation to generate more sustainable futures. Scientist at ICRAF, Lalisa Duguma, presented on how the organization has begun implementing these approaches in the humid tropics, managing trade-offs and synergies across multiple project sites. “We can’t solve all the problems at once, but they all need to be confronted in a way” he said. “There is a need for multiple projects to complement one another to achieve multi-functional landscapes. …for this, we need an articulated portfolio of research and action on the ground.”

Read volume 13 (COMING SOON)

Beyond on-the-ground approaches, FTA works with governments to build policies that harmonize human development with nature. Senior ICRAF scientist Beria Leimona spoke about how this work has involved advocating for multi-stakeholder forums (MSFs), supporting community forestry initiatives and lobbying for fair government policies. “The rich portfolios of local, national and international work, and the theories of change that FTA has developed, can support good governance principles being synergised across scales,” she said.

Session #4 – Results and impact

During the fourth session of presentations, led by Management Team member and CIRAD senior scientist Plinio Sist, scientists gave more details about how FTA measures its results and impact across scales.

Andrew Wardell began with a presentation on how FTA facilitates long-term capacity development. For example, his team collated data from the decade to track impacts and found there have been almost 80,000 downloads of the climate change tools that have been developed by FTA Flagship 5. Another example of capacity development includes the work done with the University of Kisangani, DRC, to train graduate students in forestry science and development. Already, the program has over 200 local students and graduates who will hopefully continue to work in the tropical rainforests of DRC. In the future, Wardell believes “there is a need to strengthen education systems and capacities in the global south, rather than relying on masters and PhD students from the global north. …This needs to be accompanied by monitoring and evaluation systems that look at the capacity development functions, including through ex post impact studies.”

Read volume 16 (COMING SOON)

In addition to capacity development, research for impact requires monitoring, evaluation, learning and impact assessment (MELIA). “Evolving research for development approaches require evolution in how we conceptualize and assess research,” said Brian Belcher, senior researcher at Royal Roads University. “How do we know that we’re doing the right thing? How do we know that we’re being effective?” To answer these questions, FTA has developed and applied an innovative approach based on integrative, challenge-driven Theories of Change and an organizing framework. These tools allow FTA to conduct qualitative assessments of some of the impacts of the program at scale and on key development objectives. Impact of FTA research overall has been substantial, it is estimated that FTA’s work has:

  • Brought between 1.8–34.4 million ha of land under
  • Provided between 5.1–19 million people with better means to exit poverty.
  • Brought 25.7–133.4 million ha of forests under enhanced protection. This represents up to 125.4 Gt of sequestered carbon dioxide.
  • Brought 59.5–204 million ha of land under better management via improved policy, monitoring and management practices.
  • Provided 1.12–3.43 million people with additional means to improve food and nutritional security.

Read volume 17

Following each set of presentations, the audience was asked through a poll whether they thought more implementation or more research was needed going forward. Although there was some debate, it is interesting that most poll respondents chose “more implementation.” The scientists agreed that implementation is now urgent, however, the relationship between research and implementation cannot be easily divided. “Do we need more research or implementation?,” said Meybeck. “We need a greater understanding of the relations between the two. We need more implementation of research and more research on implementation.”

Final discussion on the future of FTA

The closing panel brought together five distinguished speakers to discuss partnerships and new directions going forward. When moderator and FTA Director, Vincent Gitz, asked how organizations like FTA should work with actors in the global south going forward, Chairperson of the Independent Steering Committee of FTA, Anne-Marie Izac said, “Great focus on the role of partnerships is the very raison-d’être of FTA. …We have a relatively clear path ahead of us in terms of scaling up to build on local partneships… and I’m extremely hopeful.”

Sist (CIRAD) agreed that after 10 years and looking forward to a new FTA, we should put emphasis on strengthening our connection with society and with other actors in the field: “Our resources must breach the broader society if we want to catalyse large-scale changes that address climate change and other global challenges” he said.

Bas Louman from Tropenbos International, an organization that joined the set of FTA managing partners in 2017, also spoke on the value of an integrated, research-for-development approach for the new FTA, from upstream research to downstream, and back. “In spite of so much money being dedicated to climate, very little of that money is dedicated to research,” he said. “People just spend money and start implementing without really taking the time to think about what they’re doing. We need to help the word correct for that, to continue learning at the same time action is being made on the ground.”

To combat this trend, Li Xuejiao Deputy Director of the Division of International Cooperation at the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) upheld the importance of ongoing South-South collaboration in the coming decade. “Research plays a very important role in terms of putting items on the agenda in the first place,” she said. Li pointed to ongoing networking opportunities for Chinese organizations through the FTA network.

Similarly, Erich Schaitza, Director General of Brazil’s Embrapa Florestas, praised the networking potential of FTA: “We have to have innovation to promote wealth sustainably,” he said. “Initiatives like FTA are incredibly important to us.”

In closing, Vincent Gitz, Director of FTA, called on the audience to remain hopeful about future progress and to work together to achieve goals. He said, “Often it is difficult to see the magnitude, increment and annual changes in the work we live in. But when we look back 10 years, we see the huge magnitude on how some things have changed and evolved, on the progress made for our planetary environment and people. Not all is solved of course, but it gives us hope that we can be effective for the future… And as the famous proverb says, ‘if we want to go far, we have to go together.’”

Stay tuned for the next decade of FTA, and a special thanks to all the scientists and partners who have made these past 10 years possible.

All the speakers’ PowerPoint presentations are now available below


This article was written by Daniella Silva.

This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Scientists urge action as Gambian livestock grazing puts forests at risk

Scientists urge action as Gambian livestock grazing puts forests at risk

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Herders moving within Gambia and across the country’s borders into Senegal in search of pasture inadvertently threaten forests and the soil landscape in the country. If left unchecked, this activity could have lasting implications for ecosystems.

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  • New partnership with Google Arts & Culture brings more visibility to trees

New partnership with Google Arts & Culture brings more visibility to trees

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Eight stunning digital exhibits to reduce humans’ “plant blindness” surrounding forests, trees and agroforestry

Forests and trees are allies in the fight to achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, but it is not always easy to see their contributions to livelihoods, ecosystems, food security and nutrition. On Dec. 9, FTA launches its partnership with Google Arts & Culture to bring audiences eight visually-engaging exhibits for forests, trees and agroforestry. The prestigious collaboration makes 10 years of forest-based research and impact more accessible to global audiences.

“As scientists, we were pleased to create exhibits with Google Arts & Culture, a new way to bring our important message to global audiences: trees are drivers of sustainable development,” said FTA Director, Vincent Gitz, “they are the cornerstone of our future.”

This work forms part of a larger Google collaboration with over 60 international organizations. Together, the partners aim to reduce “plant blindness” — the tendency for people to have difficulty empathizing with plants and the environment at risk.

Explore these eight exhibits from FTA and its strategic partners, featuring compelling images, Google Streetview, videos, key messages and infographics and find out more about our research!

A Global Partnership for Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Learn more about FTA and the scope of its international work!

Access the story of FTA here!

The Forest Transition Curve

Explore the relationship between trees, humans and ecosystem services over time.

Learn about the Forest Transition Curve!

Trees on Farms

Find out how planting trees on farms (agroforestry) makes good business sense while also contributing to healthy ecosystems and food security and nutrition.

Read about the benefits of adding trees to farms!

Forest Landscape Restoration

Learn more about the 6 principles of FLR and the top 7 tree-planting misconceptions!

Did you know there are many ways to achieve FLR?

FTA Highlights of a Decade: From research to impact

This exhibit showcases FTA’s achievements over the past 10 years.

Access 10 years of research in a nutshell!

From Tree to Fork

Did you know that trees and forests are the key to the world’s future food security and nutrition? Learn more about how trees provide healthy foods, cultural traditions and jobs to people everywhere.

How many of these fruits have you tasted?

Ingenious Innovations

The tree sector is often perceived to be a low-tech world… time to change your opinions! Read up on these top 11 innovations that FTA and its partners have developed.

Innovations are at the core of forestry!

Roleplaying Agroecology

Play along as a smallholder farmer, policy maker and palm-oil plantation manager to learn more about the difficult decisions that we all need to make to protect our planet. What choices will you make?

Play along with us!


The full Google campaign with 60+ partner pages and curated exhibits will be released early next year, sensitizing more people to the vital role of trees for climate adaptation, biodiversity, food security and nutrition. Stay tuned for more!

This article was written by Daniella Silva.

This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Agroecology in the limelight at GLF Climate

Agroecology in the limelight at GLF Climate

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Originally posted on the Agroecology TPP’s website

As part of a three-day GLF Climate: Forests, Food and Finance – Frontiers of Change conference, held on the sidelines of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) on 5 – 7 November, the FTA-funded Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) put together a series of interactive sessions to discuss agroecological transitions with world-renowned experts, indigenous people and youth.

The plenary titled ‘Growing the momentum for agroecological transformation to resilient food systems’ set out to link the 13 agroecological principles from the CFS HLPE 2019 report, the CFS policy recommendations on agroecological and other innovative approaches and the Coalition on Transforming Food Systems Through Agroecology with the imperative to reduce the contribution that agriculture makes to global warming while adapting to effects of climate change. In a pre-recorded interview – streamed at the plenary – with Fergus Sinclair, Chief Scientist at CIFOR – ICRAF and Co-convenor of the TPP, HE Gotabaya Rajapakse, the President of Sri Lanka, talked about the challenges of implementing bold policy reforms to promote agroecological transition at a national level:

“Despite the overuse of chemical fertilisers, which leads to soil degradation, and inefficiency of farming over many years, there is still a widespread belief within the farming community that organic fertilisers lead to lower yields. For this reason, there is a lot of resistance coming from the farmers in opposition of the restrictions in place against the use of chemical fertilisers – even though such restrictions are better for human health and that of the planet.”

Gabriel Ferrero, Chair of the UN Committee on World Food Security and the Ambassador of Spain to the UN agencies in Rome, spoke about the growing momentum for agroecology as well as Spain’s and CFS’s role and commitment to supporting it:

“What I am seeing from the apex of the multilateral system where the CFS stands, is that at all levels – from national governments to sub-national and local ones, to landscapes, territories and local communities – there is a global movement emerging in support of a transition that is based on agroecological and other innovative approaches built on empowering small-scale producers, family farmers and women.”

Alfredo Mamani Salinas, Vice-Minister of Strategic Natural Resources Development at Peru’s Ministry of Environment, shared insights into the Ministry’s work and approach on climate change along with practical measures of implementing agroforestry policies, such as being inclusive and leaving no one behind, recovering ancestral knowledge and working closely with indigenous people, all the while taking into account women and vulnerable communities.

Going deeper into issue of inclusion, the plenary involved representatives from youth, women and indigenous people, such as Genna Tesdall, who articulated a very clear demand from the YOUNGO constituency to COP26 to have agroecology specifically referred to by the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, while Monicah Yator from Kenya gave a feminist take on bringing agroecology to pastoralists and Patty Fong of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food outlined a vision for inclusive agroecological transition. The vision of an inclusive food system based on the principles of agroecology was taken up by Emile Frison, an expert on agricultural biodiversity at IPES-Food, who described the Coalition on Transforming Food Systems Through Agroecology, which emerged from the UN food systems summit and already has 27 countries and 35 organizations, including five UN bodies, regional farmer organisations, civil society and research institutions, committed to making agroecological transitions a widespread reality.

The 45-minute launchpad on ‘Actioning agroecologically-conducive policies for a food system transformation’ intended to bring the policy discussion aimed at the agroecological transformation of our current food system to the forefront. The digital session discussed the findings and feedback received during an open consultation period of the ‘Agroecologically-conducive policies: A review of recent advances and remaining challenges’ background paper with its authors – Frank Place of CGIAR and TPP, and Paulo Niederle of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and TPP. Practical Action Peru’s Maria Claudia Valdivia gave her perspective on the real-life constraints that farmers face in making the transition to agroecology happen on the ground:

“So many farmers have been telling me that the agroecological transition is necessary, but just how difficult it is to make it. What we are seeing now are these islands of change. Unfortunately, farmers are not in a leading position in the decision-making process. We need to be listening to them and giving them the opportunity to speak and make the right choices by developing their skills at a local level.”

The updated version of the background paper, based on the latest discussion, will be released soon.

An hour-long interactive session on ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA): linking upstream and downstream catchments in Sri Lanka’ presented the climate rationale for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) EbA project in Sri Lanka, which blends agroecological approaches and EbA as it interconnects the upstream Knuckles catchment and downstream areas in a landscapes approach, involving a broad array of adaptation measures – from governance and financing to supporting the agroecological intensification.

Anura Dissanayake of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation spoke about the importance of the project – to be commenced in January next year – from a local perspective:

“Out of 50,000 small tanks for rainwater storage for agriculture and drinking, around 800 – 1000 are being washed off due to heavy floods. Heavy rainfall also causes landslides and land degradation in the country’s mountainous regions. This ambitious project will give us the directions for how to interact with the cascade system of downstream and upstream water management to help reduce flooding and consequent land degradation.”

Other speakers and scientists who shared their views on the role of ecosystem-based adaptation and the GCF EbA project include ICRAF’s Leimona Beria, Roeland Kindt and Tor-Gunnar Vågen, IUCN’s Sebastien Delahaye, and GCF’s Jerry Velasquez.

Lastly, the Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) also contributed to a GIZ-organised session on ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation in agriculture: how agroecology can contribute to tackling climate change,’ in which Fergus Sinclair of CIFOR-ICRAF and the TPP called for: addressing whole food systems; eliminating perverse policies and creating enabling ones; integrating all related sectors, including water, forestry, and trade; creating landscape-level capital and policy institutions; and shifting power to benefit marginalized groups, including women and consumers.

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  • Agroecology takes center stage at the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

Agroecology takes center stage at the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

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Wild coffee nursery in Yangambi - DRC. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR
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Held on 23 September, the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 saw over 200 commitments from all constituencies after engaging with hundreds of thousands of people from around the world ready to act and transform the global food system.

One of the Summit’s strongest outcomes and commitments to action is the Coalition for the Transformation of Food Systems Through Agroecology, already signed by 19 countries (Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Spain, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and others) and nearly 30 organizations, including Agroecology Europe, Biovision, CIFOR-ICRAFCIRADUNDPUNEP and many more.

The video prompting organizations and member states to join the Coalition, which sits under the Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (TPP) umbrella, has been featured at one of the Food Systems Summit’s plenary sessions, which can be accessed directly on the Summit’s website (Session 1 – Multi-stakeholder Commitments and Constituency Voices, at 1:12:40) or on Vimeo.

Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Food Systems Summit 2021, underlined the importance of the Coalition as one of the game-changing approaches to building more sustainable food systems that benefit both people and the planet.

Join the initiative!

Originally posted on GLFx.

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  • Shaping a future that ensures women are at the center of the Ghana shea trade

Shaping a future that ensures women are at the center of the Ghana shea trade

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Women have harvested shea nuts from trees in the savanna region of northern Ghana for centuries, using the rich oils that come from the nut – also known as shea butter – for cooking and to generate income. But they face big changes that threaten their ability to sustain these benefits.

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  • Un nouveau projet vise à renforcer les systèmes d’innovation agro-sylvo-pastorale au Cameroun

Un nouveau projet vise à renforcer les systèmes d’innovation agro-sylvo-pastorale au Cameroun

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Avec une population estimée à deux millions d’habitants et des opportunités économiques limitées, la région du Nord du Cameroun est l’une des plus peuplées, sous-développées et rurales du pays. Cette situation est aggravée par le fait que près de la moitié du territoire est occupée par les aires protégées et les zones d’intérêt cynégétique (ZIC) ou zone de chasse, ce qui réduit considérablement les espaces dédiés à l’agriculture et à l’élevage, et met une pression accrue sur les ressources naturelles.

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  • A new partnership for more sustainable and equitable food systems

A new partnership for more sustainable and equitable food systems

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Agroecology Transformative Partnership Platform just launched at a side event at the 48th Plenary of the Committee on World Food Security

Food production is the world’s leading cause of biodiversity loss. It also accounts for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions and causes widespread degradation of the land and water resources upon which it depends.

But could we redesign our food systems to work with nature, rather than against it?

Enter agroecology, a science that applies the principles and concepts of ecology to farming, making the most of nature’s resources without damaging or depleting them. It includes adopting practices that mitigate climate change, limit impacts on wildlife, and hand a key role to farmers and local communities.

A new initiative aims to spearhead the transition to agroecology. On 3 June, the Agroecology Transformative Partnership Platform (TPP) was launched at a side event of the 48th Plenary of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS 48). More than 460 people followed the discussions from 56 countries and posed questions to representatives from some of the nations implementing agroecological transitions.

Replay full event here

Initiated by the CGIAR research programme on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the French Republic via research institutions CIRAD, IRD and INRAE, and with its secretariat at ICRAF, the Agroecology TPP will accelerate uptake of agroecology by addressing knowledge and implementation gaps, coordinating the work of key partners, and providing evidence to inform policymakers, practitioners and donors.

“If we are to preserve the health of our planet and ensure human sustainability, governments the world over must not hesitate to adopt bold policies,” said His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa, one of several high-level speakers at the launch. “Such policies should support ecological conservation, help combat the loss of biodiversity and enable people to achieve their economic aspirations in more sustainable ways.”

Sri Lanka recently banned imports of artificial fertilizer and agrochemicals as part of a “long-needed national transition to a healthier and more ecologically sound system of organic agriculture,” said President Rajapaksa, adding that the Sri Lankan government will be supporting farmers and agribusinesses in the agroecological transition through subsidies and the purchases of paddy at guaranteed prices.

Listen to the full statement of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka

CFS chair Thanawat Tiensin initiated the CFS48 plenary the day after by thanking the President of Sri Lanka for his statement at the Agroecology TPP side event. President Rajapaksa’s statement was replayed in full at the plenary to kick off the country statements following the adoption of the policy recommendations around the HLPE report. IFAD vice president Dominik Ziller, speaking on behalf of the IFAD president, described the HLPE (2019) report as “an essential reference to those seeking to meet the SDGs”.

France, meanwhile, is supporting countries in the Global South in adopting agroecological practices. Prior to funding the TPP, it contributed EUR 600 million at the launch of the Great Green Wall accelerator, which it hosted in Paris, to combat desertification in the African Sahel. In November 2020, France also hosted the Finance in Common summit, which launched a new coalition of public development banks led by IFAD to improve access to finance for smallholders and small-scale agribusinesses.

“For France, it is urgent to transform our current systems towards sustainable and resilient food systems that allow everyone access to quality, healthy, safe, diversified and sustainably produced food,” said Ambassador Céline Jurgensen, France’s permanent representative to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“France calls for a paradigm shift so that an agroecological approach can replace the Green Revolution of recent decades to meet the climatic, environmental and social challenges that we all face today in both the North and the South.”

Other panelists included representatives from Switzerland and Senegal, who highlighted the role of international institutions and projects in facilitating the transition to agroecology in the buildup to the U.N. Food Systems Summit (26–28 July).

“Thirty years ago, organic products had hardly any access to the market,” said Pio Wennubst, Ambassador for the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the U.N. in Rome. “Now 20% of the food consumption in Switzerland is organic-based production.”

“All the knowledge we developed in Switzerland cannot be simply transferred the way we did in the past with positive intentions. We need another connectivity, another way to discuss and connect with the world on these issues.”

Senegal, for example, is working with FAO to reduce chemical pesticide use through the Integrated Production and Pest Management Programme, which has also increased yields by around 40%.

“Senegal encourages all participants because it is not easy to promote new technologies, said Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Senegal’s ambassador to Italy, in a statement delivered by advisor Madiagne Tall. “But by raising each other’s awareness, we will all become aware of the need to deepen such approaches.”

Civil society actors also featured at the launch, including representatives of indigenous people’s organisations and social entrepreneurs from Paraguay and Kenya, who presented initiatives on farming practices, local and indigenous knowledge and voting on pesticide bans.

The TPP builds on a series of major dialogues and reports, in line with the 13 agroecological principles and policy recommendations from the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) of the CFS. It works across eight domains in partnership with a core group of institutions including FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Biovision, CGIAR, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), AFA, AFSA and the governments of France and Switzerland.

The TPP’s approach consists of four steps, said Elisabeth Claverie de Saint-Martin, director general for research and strategy at CIRAD. “To tackle knowledge gaps, first gather the best scientists around an unsolved issue. Second, define a common methodology. Third, apply to a wide diversity of situations and contexts; and fourth, try to generate useful knowledge, both specific to the contexts and generic.”

This approach has already been applied to a growing portfolio of projects across Asia, Africa and Latin America, she added, referring to a France-funded TPP project that aims to evaluate the socioeconomic viability of agroecological practices across Africa.

“As it goes forward, the TPP will contribute to creating a level playing field for agroecological approaches to be taken up,” said Fergus Sinclair, chief scientist at CIFORICRAF and co-convener of the TPP and project team leader of the HLPE report.

“The TPP will embrace the complexity needed to transition to co-created locally relevant agriculture and food systems, and enable the horizontal integration across sectors and vertical integration across scales required to translate national and international commitments under the UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD and AFR100 into meaningful action on the ground.”

“The contribution of agroecological approaches to achieving the 2030 agenda by applying locally adapted solutions for agri-food systems that are environmentally sustainable and economically fair and socially acceptable is increasingly recognized. That is why the FAO conference requested the further integration of sustainable agriculture approaches, including agroecology, in FAO’s work,” said Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist at FAO. She then concluded the event with these inspiring words: “Through the newly established transformative partnership platform that you presented on agroecology, FAO will actively engage in inclusive collaboration with different stakeholders to transform agri-food systems for better production better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, and leave no one behind.”

Get involved by joining the TPP Community of Practice on GLFx.

By Ming Chun Tang. This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • From fields to landscapes: establishing the resilient productivity of Andhra Pradesh community-managed natural farming

From fields to landscapes: establishing the resilient productivity of Andhra Pradesh community-managed natural farming

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Building resilient landscapes in India is a participatory process with farmers, say scientists.

By Ann Wavinya, Sabrina Chesterman, Leigh Winowiecki and Sonia Sharma

Originally posted in World Agroforestry’s blog

World Agroforestry (ICRAF) with Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS)/Farmer’s Empowerment Organisation) of the Government of the State of Andhra Pradesh, India are engaged in an ambitious, novel ‘landscape approach’ that addresses the loss of farming resilience and productivity owing to widespread land degradation in the State.

This complex development challenge presents an opportunity to establish ‘engagement landscapes’ as participatory living laboratories for agroecological transformation in Andhra Pradesh, based on the Community-Managed Natural Farming model. This novel approach, with continuous participatory engagement, aims to increase the scale of climate-resilient forms of agriculture that result in improved resilience, including enhanced soil health and greater water-use efficiency, while having a positive impact on rural livelihoods.

Why we need to build resilience in Andhra Pradesh

The work is a collaboration with ClimateWorks Foundation to build robust scientific evidence showing where and how climate and livelihoods’ resilience can be achieved.

Through such a partnership, the project team aims influence extensive uptake of climate-resilient, community-managed, natural farming in Andhra Pradesh through landscape scale work and learning.

To launch the project, a one-day virtual workshop was held on 25 March 2021, jointly facilitated by RySS and ICRAF and attended by 86 people from India, Africa, Europe, the UK and USA, representing multiple sectors and backgrounds, including research, government, non-governmental and community-based organisations.

The purpose of the workshop was to introduce the landscape approach, draw from others’ experience and share knowledge, to link with the many ongoing efforts and initiatives, and identify additional partners to co-develop an engagement action plan.


Facilitator Swati Renduchintala
Lead facilitator of the workshop, Swati Renduchintala (centre, small screen) from RySS, introducing participants


‘The current and future success of climate-resilient, community-managed, natural farming lies in its adoption by innovative farmers,’ said Vijay Kumar, executive vice-chairman of RySS. ‘The farmers who have adapted natural farming practices to their needs and contexts across the State are the ones that are and will thrive.’

The scientific rationale of the project builds on baseline studies conducted by ICRAF. One study, using the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework, showed alarmingly low levels of soil organic carbon, aboveground biomass and plant diversity. This was indicative of the biophysical constraints experienced by the then-current agricultural systems that adversely affected the resilience of ecosystems and the livelihoods of the individuals and communities who depended upon them.

During the workshop, Ravi Prabhu, director of Innovation, Investment and Impact at CIFOR-ICRAF, defined the scale of work at landscape scale, noting the importance of exemplar landscapes, which are smaller geographic areas within engagement landscapes where focused work can take place.

Engagement landscapes
Ravi Prabhu from CIFOR-ICRAF introduced the concept of engagement and exemplar landscapes. Source: Workshop Report


“Our focus is on assessing and strengthening the resilience of the system to climate and other shocks through taking a broader landscape scale and organisational frame for our work” – Vijay Kumar

Prabhu explained that in order to develop solutions, we need to consider the complexity of real life; that nothing exists in isolation. Through the landscape approach, we can observe the broader system in which villages exist. This broader approach seeks systemic, sustainable change by challenging us to think about where the problems and opportunities lie.

Leigh Ann Winowiecki, leader of ICRAF’s Land Health Decisions research group and project head, outlined the project’s objectives and expected outcomes.

‘There is an urgent need to rethink our approach to agriculture,’ reiterated Winowiecki. ‘This project aims to build a robust scientific evidence base showing where and how climate and livelihood resilience can be achieved, ensuring context-specific adaptation and innovation through co-learning with multiple stakeholders.’

The project team proposed three exemplar landscapes in Anantapur, West Godavari and Vishakhapatnam districts. Low biodiversity conservation, scarce rainfall, tribal land and high intensity farming are some of the factors that informed their proposal. The issues in each of these landscapes are different and related to other issues — such as social, health, livelihoods and migration — within these landscapes.

During the plenary and the break-out sessions, participants were given the opportunity to share what they would want to achieve from working at a landscape level. They discussed they key considerations, opportunities and challenges for developing exemplar landscapes, as well as increasing scale and measuring resilient productivity. The workshop introduced a proposed framework for establishing the exemplar landscapes.


Establishment process

Process for establishing the exemplar landscapes and key steps for working in them. Source: Workshop Report


The project team seeks to strengthen the existing natural farming ecosystem, as well as increase its scale from the current 600,000 farmers to over 1.5 million in the next two years.

‘We will engage at multiple levels of management, partnership and governance to support the scaling out of practices, innovations, technologies and policies across the State and beyond, giving meaning to the term “engagement landscape for natural farming,”’ concluded Winowiecki.

The project team are now actively working on training and recruitment of local facilitators and district workshop plans. Stay tuned for our next story on the district workshops.

Read more

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  • Perú: ¿Pueden las CUSAF reducir la deforestación y ofrecer medios de vida sostenibles?

Perú: ¿Pueden las CUSAF reducir la deforestación y ofrecer medios de vida sostenibles?

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En Perú, así como en otras partes del mundo, la constante expansión de las fronteras agrícolas ha acelerado la presión sobre los bosques naturales, especialmente la deforestación. En sus esfuerzos para combatirla, el Gobierno peruano ha impulsado en los últimos dos años las denominadas Cesiones en Uso para Sistemas Agroforestales (CUSAF).

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  • Just Launched! Diversity of agroforestry practices in Viet Nam, report by ICRAF

Just Launched! Diversity of agroforestry practices in Viet Nam, report by ICRAF

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Originally posted on World Agroforestry’s website.

In Southeast Asia, Viet Nam is a leader in characterisation and classification of agroforestry systems for various eco agricultural zones. The book pushes the country further into the lead.

A new book, Diversity of agroforestry practices in Viet Nam, was launched on 21 March 2021 on the International Day of Forests and Trees by World Agroforestry (ICRAF) in Viet Nam.

Diversity of agroforestry practices in Viet Nam [PDF]
“This publication describes the high diversity of agroforestry practices in Viet Nam,” said Rachmat Mulia, agroforestry researcher with ICRAF Viet Nam and one of the editors of the book, “and supports a wider development of agroforestry.”

“We provide information about the main characteristics of the systems, such as plant components and common design, including their distribution across the country,’ added Nguyen Mai Phuong, agroforestry researcher with ICRAF Viet Nam and the other editor of the book. ‘In addition, for most of the systems presented, we provide photos for better illustration.”

Agroforestry has been practised in Viet Nam for decades in the form of traditional models, such as forest–garden– fishpond–livestock systems in the lowlands and fruit or timber tree-based models in the uplands. According to the Spatially Characterized Agroforestry online database, the total area of agroforestry in the country had reached about 900,000 hectares during 2013–2014.

Owing to agroforestry’s potential for addressing the global challenges of food insecurity and the climate crisis, enhanced knowledge of its scope, diversity and potential benefits are considered necessary for the authorities, agricultural practitioners, and the research and development sectors. In addition, knowledge of, and work towards, removing barriers to agroforestry adoption at national and sub-national levels will help accelerate agroforestry development and help meet its fullest potential.

Docynia indica is considered as one of Viet Nam’s special fruits. Here, it is growing with upland rice in Son La Province, North West Region. Photo: World Agroforestry/Nguyen Mai Phuong

Agroforestry development can also support Viet Nam in achieving targets of several national policies. The country has included agroforestry in its 2020 Nationally Determined Contributions as a measure for land conservation to maintain food production and for carbon sequestration to combat the climate crisis.

“This book will become one of the most important publications by ICRAF Viet Nam,” said Nguyen Quang Tan, country representative for ICRAF Viet Nam. “It can generate longer-term and broader positive impact for the country, in particular, and for research in development of agroforestry worldwide. We purposely selected 21 March 2021 as the day to launch the book, that is, the International Day of Forests and Trees, to signify that agroforestry, through its capacity to generate various products and services, can also contribute to forest conservation.”

The book is divided into three parts. First, it provides main characteristics of 48 agroforestry systems spread across 42 provinces in Viet Nam during 2013–2014, as found in the Spatially Characterized Agroforestry database. Second, it presents agroforestry systems documented in different projects and studies implemented by ICRAF Viet Nam. And the third part is other agroforestry systems in Viet Nam documented in the literature.


Download the book

Mulia R, Nguyen MP, eds. 2021. Diversity of agroforestry practices in Viet Nam. Ha Noi, Viet Nam: World Agroforestry (ICRAF).

This article was produced by World Agroforestry.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Meeting in The Gambia delivers Banjul Tree Cover Resolution: ‘Every day that we delay comes at a cost’

Meeting in The Gambia delivers Banjul Tree Cover Resolution: ‘Every day that we delay comes at a cost’

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Mango, coconut and Baobab trees create shade in historic area of Banjul. Urban trees are part of Banjul Resolution. WorldAgroforestry/CathyWatson
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Originally published by World Agroforestry

With Green Climate Fund support, delegates draft landmark text: ‘Bring trees to crop land, not crops to forest land’

One day, looking back, Gambian parents may say: ‘Look, at this green Gambia that you see, children. It was in February 2020 that as a country we decided to halt tree loss and restore cover. Never forget that. We owe it our water, health and food.’

Lamin B Dibba, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources Minister, The Gambia

Parents may also hark back to figures who took a strong stand at that time, like Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources Minister Lamin B Dibba , who said, ‘farming cannot be effective without trees,’ and senior civil servant Bubu Pateh, who said, ‘If the tree is not there to pick water from the ground, rain will not be there.’

So, what event took place in early 2020 that was so momentous? In a nutshell, it was a meeting.

On 20-21 February, the Government of The Gambia, under its Large-scale Ecosystem-based Adaptation Project in the Gambia River Basin, which is funded by the Green Climate Fund with the UN Environment Programme as the accredited implementing agency, held theNational Policy Discourse on Minimum Tree Cover on Farms in The Gambia’.

Few could have anticipated the fervor that ensued. The delegates engaged as though the futures of their families depended upon it. And indeed, they do. The West African state – tucked inside Senegal along both banks of the Gambia River – is on a precipitous slide towards becoming hotter, drier, hungrier and poorer if nature-based solutions are ignored.

Peter Minang, Principle Scientist, World Agroforestry

Principal scientist Peter Minang from World Agroforestry, the technical partner on EbA as the project is known for short, was one of the first to speak.

‘With climate change, trees are the number one resilience method,’ said the Cameroonian geographer. ‘If you do not use trees, you have degradation. And trees can generate electricity, bring income from cashews, and produce fodder so that livestock feed better. And then there is the food side of trees. The project surveyed 1000 households. Almost 50% said that, in the hungry period, 50% of their food comes from wild trees. Based on all of these big things, with trees we can have a pathway out of poverty and become prosperous.’

Malanding Jaiteh, the manager of the EbA project, spoke next, starting with the challenges.

Malanding Jaiteh, the manager of The Gambia’s EbA project

‘It takes a whole country to manage its trees. Forestry tried and it did not work out as expected. Village expansion affects baobabs, and you find them gone. Elephant grass is outcompeting trees in national parks. Big trees are seen as a source of income, so are cut. And rising temperatures have been a disaster for seed germination and tree physiology.’

But he also gave a rallying call. ‘Every day that we delay comes at a cost. Let us see what we can do. A lot of options have not really been taken up.’

The project which began in 2018, Jaiteh said, targets restoring 3000 hectares of farmland and 7000 hectares of degraded forest, woodland, savannah and mangroves; reaching 11,550 households with benefits of $300 a year from nature-based businesses; and increasing climate change adaptation for over 125 community forests and protected areas.

A panel discussion and responses from the room revealed the depth of experience and knowledge but also the complexity of the drivers of tree loss and some conflicting views.

  • On transhumance: ‘Anything we plant is eaten by ranging livestock. We spend a lot of money fencing. Owners have the right to own animals but not to destroy trees.’  But also, more positively – ‘Livestock bring the forest closer. They bring seeds to our fields after eating there.’
  • On species: ‘Slow growing trees are the adapted ones. They grow slowly because they are managing the constraints. Whatever we do, let’s prioritise indigenous trees.’
  • On poverty: ‘There are fewer livelihoods every year. There are very few other things for people to do besides going in the forest.’
  • On illegal extraction: ‘They take our hardwoods for chopsticks and to grow mushrooms.’
  • On niches for trees: “They are living markers to avoid boundary conflicts.’ ‘They can generate hope in environments of despair like prisons.’ ‘Bring trees to cropland, not crops to forest land.’
  • On protecting trees: ‘Trees are not things to be planted and left alone. “I’ve planted a tree” is not a goal. The goal is trees restoring ecosystems.’

Day 1 also saw also sobering observations as well.

‘‘As per the projected climate change scenarios and if no action is taken, most of The Gambia will not be suitable for Baobab in 50 years,’ said Lalisa Duguma from World Agroforestry. ‘Since 2009, a total of 95,000 hectares of forest have been lost. This is disheartening,’ said Ebrima Sanneh, Regional Forestry officer for Central River Region.

‘Rainfall is decreasing. In some area, water moisture is sufficient for plant growth in just three months of the year,’ said EbA chief technical advisor Bubu Pateh.

Map showing changes in number of hot days in The Gambia

Day 2 was spent hammering out the Banjul Resolution to increase tree cover from the current 48%. The preamble begins ‘We the people’ and notes Gambians’ dependence on trees. It calls for, among other things, an agroforestry policy, the institutionalization of tree ownership and rights, and for government to prioritize high value, locally adaptable tree species.

World Agroforestry’s Duguma, who read out all 24 clauses, said: ‘This resolution will be a legacy. We in the EbA project will be able to say that it was from that day that we started something that we never expected to get that big.’

The resolution now sits with the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, who closed the meeting.

‘This is just the beginning,’ said Minister Dibba. ‘This is one of the most important gatherings I’ve ever attended.’


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Like many others in the community of Akaa in Ghana’s Upper East Region, Esther Atogiba knows the difficulties of trying to farm where there is a shortage of land.

Upon marrying her husband, her in-laws took her to their ancestral lands to show her what they had lost. After the colonial border between Burkina Faso and Ghana were enforced to determine the Nazinga Wildlife Reserve, Ghanians were prohibited from crossing the line to farm and collect tree resources. For the people of Akaa, this new demarcation of territory cut them off from their precious family lands.

Today, as Atogiba tells us, she and her husband are forced to lease land in neighbouring communities to grow their crops. But the soil is infertile and they are not permitted to harvest fruit from shea and other trees on the land. As a result, life is very difficult indeed in Akaa, so hard that one day they might have to leave.

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  • When ancestral lands fall victim to an international border

When ancestral lands fall victim to an international border

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People in the community of Akaa, in Kassena-Nankana District in Ghana’s Upper East Region, remember the days before officials just across the border in neighbouring Burkina Faso, surveyed the land to mark the southern edge of the Nazinga Wildlife Reserve in their country. It was after the survey that people in Akaa learned that much of their ancestral land would no longer be available to them because it lay on the Burkinabe side of the frontier, a line drawn more than a century earlier on the colonial map. Communities on the Ghanaian side such as Akaa suddenly found the international border being enforced and their access to family lands cut off. They were never given an explanation for the survey.

The loss of those lands has never ceased to cause problems for the people of Akaa. As Hansen Abaloori tells us, not only are they unable to access tree resources on the family lands, they no longer have enough land to fallow. And so, their soils have grown infertile; their harvests poor.

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